WHISKEY & CHOCOLATE PAIRINGS
With the rise in whiskey drinkers and afficionados, many people are interested in our whiskey and chocolate pairings. Due to Covid, our in-store events are paused. Through the years we've done many pairings so here's a guide to help you create your own Whiskey & Chocolate Pairing. We know whiskey comes in different forms (bourbon, scotch and rye), so we are going to focus on the general flavor notes of all whiskey. We’ve done tastings with the three main types so we know what works well with our chocolate.
Stone-Ground Chocolate vs European Chocolate
We need to point out that there is going to be a difference in tasting our stone-ground chocolate with European style chocolate. European style chocolate has a smooth, creamy texture due to the additional cacao butter added which coats the mouth with additional fat than our type of chocolate. Due to the fact that there’s less fat in our chocolate, the taste of whiskey or any spirit will allow the intensity of the whiskey to shine brighter. Without the added fat (chocolate naturally has about 50% natural cacao butter), our stone-ground chocolate will allow one to experience a myriad of flavors without having cacao butter interrupt those senses. Not to say one type of chocolate is better than the other, it’s just a different experience like eating whole wheat bread vs. white bread. All I will say is that the true taste of chocolate will come out with the whiskey paired. The following steps are for our stone-ground chocolate in mind, but certainly use this as a guide for other types of chocolate as you start to pair chocolates with
How to Start Your Whiskey Pairings with Chocolate
1. Choose your Whiskey
When doing a whiskey and chocolate pairing, we like to ask our collaborators to choose the whiskey. Choose what you like ranging from scotch, rye, whiskey or bourbon. Here’s a Whiskey Flavor Wheel that can help you look at the different nuances of whiskey.
2. Choose the Chocolate
Using the Whiskey flavor wheel as a guide, we are going to focus on the tasting notes of: Fruity, Peaty, Malty, Woody, and Spicy. I’m adding in Smokey, because there’s a difference between smoke and peat when it comes to whiskey and how we should pair chocolate with it.
Whiskey Notes and Pairing of Chocolate
Malty & Fruity Whiskies
Higher cacao percentages tend to pair well with malty and fruity. Because our chocolate doesn’t contain cacao butter, we have to think about how it coats the tongue. Higher cacao percentages will have an earthy taste. A luxurious and fun comparison is choosing our Heirloom bars that have a much higher cacao butter content and slightly more acid due to the way the beans are fermented. Choose between mid-range cacao percentages along with some bars that have some extra fat. Note that our bars that have nuts are actually ground into the chocolate which increases overall fat content.
Chocolate Bars to Pair with Malty & Fruity Whiskies
Vanilla Bean + Black Salt Great bar if you want purity with a touch of sweetness.
Scotch tends to have peatiness which some describe as seaweed, earthiness, or as I read in one article, “rotting seaweed”. Not the most appealing flavor. You’ll love it or hate it. There is a difference between peat and smoky flavors. Some people get them confused. If we have a peaty flavor, think of it more like a savory flavor. My suggestions are to try a pure flavor with some sweetness and something that has flavors that can complement the taste of seaweed.
Chocolate Bars to Pair with Peaty Whiskies
Vanilla Bean + Black Salt Great bar if you’re a purist.
Shangri-La (black sesame + goji berries). If I think of foods that have seaweed especially in Asian culture, black sesame and seaweed complement each other well.
Mayan Tradition (cinnamon and chilies). A bit spicy with some cinnamon and some creaminess with the almonds that are ground into the bar.
Smokey whiskeys will have an ashy charcoal flavor and will be easy to pick up on the nose. Choose flavors that will power thru the smoke and not let the smoke overpower your chocolate. Here are our recommended flavors:
Chocolate Bars to Pair with Smokey Whiskies
The spiciness of chocolate comes from the breakdown of oakwood barrels. Best described like this:
Search for these popular baking spices in your whisky by sipping and waiting for them to ricochet in your mouth like a cue ball slamming into the pack. – Whiskey Advocate
That’s exactly what happens with our Mayan Tradition chocolate. I find most whiskies have this type of tasting note therefore, I've listed a range of chocolates that we've used in our tastings that will give you many elements of surprise.
Chocolate Bars to Pair with Spicy Whiskies
This is all based on the type of wood that the whiskey is aged in. As Jim Beveridge, Master Distiller at Johnny Walker states when describing the difference between rye and whiskey and touching upon the importance of the wood:
To me, the big difference will be in the kind of wood in which the whiskey is matured, because bourbon whiskey has to be matured in American oak casks. Bourbon whiskey will have lots of woody flavors. Rye whiskey tends to be lighter, doesn’t necessarily need to be matured in new casks, and has less woodiness. When you get into Scotch whisky, the flavors tend to be quite pronounced. There’s less flavor coming from the wood compared with bourbon, for example.
Based on that, if you have a strong woody flavor you want to choose chocolates that have a stronger flavor like the Coffee & Vanilla and if it’s not too woody go with your lighter chocolates. The chocolates will be similar to the chocolate above:
Chocolate Bars to Pair with Woody Whiskies
Creating The Perfect Whiskey & Chocolate Pairing
As you can see, there’s so much complexity in chocolate, and I can spend 15 minutes on each chocolate bar and whiskey to really go thru a more thorough tasting. There are thoughts of the perfect chocolate bar at different cacao percentages to create the Ultimate Whiskey & Chocolate Pairing. But that's another project down the pipeline. This is a quick guide that can help you prepare for your own Whiskey and Chocolate Pairing. Also to guide you, here is a Chocolate Sensory Wheel .
Unfortunately, with COVID, we are no longer holding in-house events, but we are gearing up for a virtual event so sign up on our newsletter for a virtual chocolate and whiskey event!